Stovebolt.com
Posted By: RobinCO 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jun 30 2020 01:54 AM
My '51 has the 216 Babbitt and I'm wondering if it is worth rebuilding for my truck. I've seen a lot of posts about the issues with the 216 so I'm leaning towards just keeping the motor on a pallet off to the side and putting in a more modern engine.

Can anyone give me a great reason to keep the 216 as the engine?

Thanks,
Rob
Posted By: Hotrod Lincoln Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jun 30 2020 02:15 AM
It won WW II in a few hundred thousand Chevy trucks, and the basic design lasted from the late 1920's to the mid-1950's in untold numbers of cars and trucks that got people to work and back and traveled all over the world. A lot of people are simply too ignorant or lazy to keep one running right, so they swap for a different engine, not necessarily a "better" one. There's nothing wrong with a 216 that can't be fixed by someone with more than half a dozen brain cells to rub together.
Jerry
Posted By: coilover Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jun 30 2020 02:19 AM
HOW DO YOU INTEND TO DRIVE IT? If driven like in 1951 the Babbitt bearings are just fine. If you want to drive in the left lane in 2020 then some work needs planned out.
Posted By: 52Carl Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jun 30 2020 04:15 AM
I want a truck with a 216 in it so that I can go to a car show and start it with my hand crank. I would need the special bracket that bolts to the center hole of the bumper for the hand crank to pass through to protect the grill in case things get dicey.
Posted By: RobinCO Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jun 30 2020 01:07 PM
Evan,

I'm hoping to be able to drive this from Colorado back to Iowa/Minnesota where it was "raised", it's ~1,000 miles that I would need to cover in 1 or 2 days so reliability is key. Along with this being my only truck, it will be used for runs to Lowes/HD, picking up mulch, etc. I don't foresee pulling a trailer with it, I have another vehicle that can pull a trailer as needed. So basically, I'm going to use it as a normal truck, the way Chevrolet intended it to be used, just with some more modern conveniences.

Rob
Posted By: moparguy Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jun 30 2020 01:34 PM
My '51 3600 has the original 216 with about 55k miles. I've put about 15,000 of those miles on it. Longest trip has been 650 miles one way from my home in Sheridan Arkansas to Luckenbach Tx. Twice. Zero problems. Just checked Peyton and looks like you're on the Front Range so no worry about big mountain passes. I wouldn't worry about those is I had to cross any though, just go slow (out of necessity both up and down) and make sure brakes are in GOOD shape.

Three things I always carry on trips, a 5 gal. can of fuel, a jug of engine oil and a gallon of coolant. Well that along with extra points and condenser in the glove box and a do-all tool box in the bed. Oh, and yes my truck is still 6 volt.

At 55 mph your truck will be happy. Two 10'ish hour days and the trip's done.

Good Luck,

RonR
Posted By: John Milliman Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Mon Jul 06 2020 01:55 PM
Rob,

For what it's worth (I have a 1-ton, not a 1/2-ton -- big difference to the 216) ... I went through a similar decision process and ultimately decided to replace my perfectly fine 216 with a 261 for the following reasons:

1. Peer pressure. Yes, I am man enough to admit it.

2. I like to do a lot of group driving and with the 216, the rest of the gang was having to slow down often to let me catch up (refer to No. 1 above). The 216 with the stock 5.something rear end pretty much limited me to 50 MPH. a little more if I made it scream, which I didn't want to do that much. It also rendered long distance trips out of the question (Interstates were off limits to me). Even after I replaced the third member in the rear axle with a 4.10 gear set, the 216 really ran out of power fast at the top end. It would quickly lose power and speed at even the slightest up grade or head wind.

Speaking of Interstates ... if I want to go anywhere outside of my county (for shows, cruises, get togethers, etc) I pretty much have to deal with the Washington DC beltway. Driving an all original truck on the DC Beltway isn't merely a bad idea, it's just plain stupid. Who doesn't love an all-original truck?? But I like to actually play with my toys (and survive the experience).

3. My regular driving around home puts me in a fair amount of multi-lane, stop and go (traffic lights), and the 216 pretty much made me a traffic obstruction and it seemed that everyone was desperate to drive like idiots to get around me -- not a fun driving experience.

4. If you drive the 216 a lot, you will have to get good at keeping your engine clean (because of all the oil blowing out of the valve cover and road tube) AND you will have to learn how to properly adjust your valves ... you will be doing it a lot to keep the 216 happy.

My decision really came down to deciding what I enjoyed more -- having a really original trailer queen I could only drive around within 25 miles of the house, or having a useful truck I could drive safely and adequately whatever I wanted to do (run a load from the feed mill and not block traffic or cruise 400 miles on the Interstate). I choose the latter.

And also FWIW, my 261 has an 848 head on it. I am also man enough to admit that I do not really know what the 848 head does for my performance actually, but it is fun to hear people say "oooooh, he's got an 848 head on his 261 ..." Of course, that is tempered by the fact that towering over that 848 head is a single Rochester carburetor on a stock intake ... buy hey, it's an 848 head ... smile

Anyway ... we all love the venerable 216. Truly a remarkable engine. but if you want to really enjoy your truck by driving it ... a lot .... give it a well-deserved retirement to a place of honor in your shop (in the corner ... set some lights on it and decorate the wall behind it with suitable shop art to make a shrine of sorts ... wink ) and put a more modern engine in your truck.

IMPORTANT NOTE :: IF you decide to replace the engine, PLEASE ... before you go cruising the interstates, be sure to get your front end, steering and brakes in order. Consider installing seat belts (easy to do) and keep in mind that while these old trucks can handle modern highway speeds (once properly set up), they weren't designed for it. You do have to keep that in mind and adjust your driving habits appropriately.

Thanks,
John
Posted By: RobinCO Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Mon Jul 06 2020 03:16 PM
John,

Thank you for your advice. For where I live, my drive to work everyday is on a higher speed road that everyone loves to speed on, at least it's not stop and go like the DC area but still plenty of idiots on that road.

I'm planning on getting everything repaired before I start getting too crazy with driving the truck daily, mainly due to my first statement about the idiot drivers, good brakes are essential since everyone likes to cut in and out of traffic.

I really want to enjoy this truck, not have it sit in my garage and only get taken out once in a while. Chevy trucks are built to last so the tweaks I'm wanting to do are about keeping it a functional truck.

I have the book "Restoring your Chevrolet Truck" and it's been a great read. I love the picture of your truck in the book.

Rob

Originally Posted by John Milliman
Rob,

For what it's worth (I have a 1-ton, not a 1/2-ton -- big difference to the 216) ... I went through a similar decision process and ultimately decided to replace my perfectly fine 216 with a 261 for the following reasons:

1. Peer pressure. Yes, I am man enough to admit it.

2. I like to do a lot of group driving and with the 216, the rest of the gang was having to slow down often to let me catch up (refer to No. 1 above). The 216 with the stock 5.something rear end pretty much limited me to 50 MPH. a little more if I made it scream, which I didn't want to do that much. It also rendered long distance trips out of the question (Interstates were off limits to me). Even after I replaced the third member in the rear axle with a 4.10 gear set, the 216 really ran out of power fast at the top end. It would quickly lose power and speed at even the slightest up grade or head wind.

Speaking of Interstates ... if I want to go anywhere outside of my county (for shows, cruises, get togethers, etc) I pretty much have to deal with the Washington DC beltway. Driving an all original truck on the DC Beltway isn't merely a bad idea, it's just plain stupid. Who doesn't love an all-original truck?? But I like to actually play with my toys (and survive the experience).

3. My regular driving around home puts me in a fair amount of multi-lane, stop and go (traffic lights), and the 216 pretty much made me a traffic obstruction and it seemed that everyone was desperate to drive like idiots to get around me -- not a fun driving experience.

4. If you drive the 216 a lot, you will have to get good at keeping your engine clean (because of all the oil blowing out of the valve cover and road tube) AND you will have to learn how to properly adjust your valves ... you will be doing it a lot to keep the 216 happy.


My decision really came down to deciding what I enjoyed more -- having a really original trailer queen I could only drive around within 25 miles of the house, or having a useful truck I could drive safely and adequately whatever I wanted to do (run a load from the feed mill and not block traffic or cruise 400 miles on the Interstate). I choose the latter.

And also FWIW, my 261 has an 848 head on it. I am also man enough to admit that I do not really know what the 848 head does for my performance actually, but it is fun to hear people say "oooooh, he's got an 848 head on his 261 ..." Of course, that is tempered by the fact that towering over that 848 head is a single Rochester carburetor on a stock intake ... buy hey, it's an 848 head ... smile

Anyway ... we all love the venerable 216. Truly a remarkable engine. but if you want to really enjoy your truck by driving it ... a lot .... give it a well-deserved retirement to a place of honor in your shop (in the corner ... set some lights on it and decorate the wall behind it with suitable shop art to make a shrine of sorts ... wink ) and put a more modern engine in your truck.

IMPORTANT NOTE :: IF you decide to replace the engine, PLEASE ... before you go cruising the interstates, be sure to get your front end, steering and brakes in order. Consider installing seat belts (easy to do) and keep in mind that while these old trucks can handle modern highway speeds (once properly set up), they weren't designed for it. You do have to keep that in mind and adjust your driving habits appropriately.

Thanks,
John
Posted By: Tony292 Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Mon Jul 06 2020 07:28 PM
Where do you live? My stock 216 seems adequate on flat ground, I can’t go through the gears and get her up to 50 or so. On the hills though, forget it!!! I have a lot of mountains around my place so I’m exploring other engine options....
Posted By: Hotrod Lincoln Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Mon Jul 06 2020 09:05 PM
There's a pretty good reason the trucks and cars that ran 216's were geared the way the were. I can hitch a cat to a coaster wagon to pull me down the street, but it takes a lot of work with a peachtree switch to get any speed out of that combination! If a 216 gets coupled up to a 4 speed main box and a 3 speed Brownie so it can run 3500 RPM all the time, it can move a pretty good load- - - -it just can't do it very fast. I knew a guy who had a good-sized wrecker bed on a cabover stovebolt with a 216. He could haul a load with it, but he was sort of rowing it with the shift levers most of the time!
Jerry
Posted By: Lightholder's Dad Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Mon Jul 06 2020 11:03 PM
I drove my stock '51 with a 216 from AZ to the reunion in the Kansas City area in 2015. That is 1200 miles one way and I did it in 2 1/2 days each way, always driving during daylight hours. I did try to stay off the interstates but did quite a few miles on the Kansas tollroad and had to negotiate freeways in the KC area. The continental divide on Highway 60 is in west NM and is about 7800 feet and it met that challenge without a whimper. That may not sound very high to someone from CO but that is higher than any point east of the Mississippi. I buzzed along at 55-57 mph, got 15.4 mpg and had an absolute blast. For my efforts I won this tall trophy at the truck show for "Longest Distance Driven." Made me feel better about how my truck did not match up with the trailer queens (nothing against trailer queens, my '37 qualifies as one and it also has a 216). I even left all those giant Texas grasshoppers in the grill for the show, so everyone knew it made the trip on it's own.

To return to your question, I would advise you get your truck roadworthy with the current 216 and see how it does. Maybe it is on it's last legs and that will make your decision easier. Maybe you will fall in love with it and it will perform adequately for the tasks you challenge it with. Just see how it goes; you can always modify it later.

Kent
Posted By: RobinCO Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jul 07 2020 12:33 AM
Tony,

I'm just east of Colorado Springs. My daily drive to work wouldn't be too bad with only a few hills along the route but driving into the mountains and some areas that I'd like to go might be challening.

Originally Posted by Tony292
Where do you live? My stock 216 seems adequate on flat ground, I can’t go through the gears and get her up to 50 or so. On the hills though, forget it!!! I have a lot of mountains around my place so I’m exploring other engine options....
Posted By: RobinCO Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jul 07 2020 12:45 AM
Kent,

The elevation of my front door is ~6800 feet. I could easily tune the carb for this elevation. I've got a bent pushrod and the #4 cylinder but everything spins freely apart from that valve with the bent rod. I haven't taken the engine out of the engine bay yet so I haven't remove anything from the engine other than the valve cover and metal plate that covers up the pushrods. Right now my goal is a daily driver so I'm thinking the 216 will end up in the corner of my garage as a shrine. I'm not going to be entering this in any car shows so I'm not concerned about numbers matching, I want to use this truck the way my Grandfather did, as a truck and carrying/hauling anything and everything.

Rob

Originally Posted by Lightholder's Dad
I drove my stock '51 with a 216 from AZ to the reunion in the Kansas City area in 2015. That is 1200 miles one way and I did it in 2 1/2 days each way, always driving during daylight hours. I did try to stay off the interstates but did quite a few miles on the Kansas tollroad and had to negotiate freeways in the KC area. The continental divide on Highway 60 is in west NM and is about 7800 feet and it met that challenge without a whimper. That may not sound very high to someone from CO but that is higher than any point east of the Mississippi. I buzzed along at 55-57 mph, got 15.4 mpg and had an absolute blast. For my efforts I won this tall trophy at the truck show for "Longest Distance Driven." Made me feel better about how my truck did not match up with the trailer queens (nothing against trailer queens, my '37 qualifies as one and it also has a 216). I even left all those giant Texas grasshoppers in the grill for the show, so everyone knew it made the trip on it's own.

To return to your question, I would advise you get your truck roadworthy with the current 216 and see how it does. Maybe it is on it's last legs and that will make your decision easier. Maybe you will fall in love with it and it will perform adequately for the tasks you challenge it with. Just see how it goes; you can always modify it later.

Kent
Posted By: 52Carl Re: 216 Babbitt Engine - Tue Jul 07 2020 01:56 AM
I built a '50 with a '53 full pressure 235, T-5 with a .72 overdrive gear, and a Nissan Xterra 4.64 limited slip rear end. That is my drive anywhere vehicle. I could pull a stump and drag it down the road at 65 MPH. (I haven't done that yet, but I could.)
I built a '49 with a 350/400TH engine/transmission, power steering, A/C, and a 3.08 12 bolt rear end. It is my pretty boy truck which I can drive anywhere, but I don't when it is raining. (Its too much work to detail every time it rains.)
I used to have a 100% original '52. The block cracked so I parked the truck to be restored at a later date. I truly miss driving that truck. I always wanted to use my hand crank to start it, but never had the chance.
So whats my point?
Buy as many of these trucks as you can get away with plus one, then build each one to suit every need. Bone stock, slightly modified, fully modified.
© The Stovebolt Forums